Upphandla klimatsmart och cirkulärt i ett livcykelperspektiv

This report is only available in Swedish. English summary is available in the report.


The environmental challenges shall be used as an economic driver by making use of advanced environmental requirements in public procurement. Green Public Procurement (GPP) is a market-based and powerful tool in our work for a sustainable consumption and production. An international response to this challenge has realized the necessity to incorporate two new aspects to consider – the inclusion of a life cycle perspective and the concept of circular economy, which favor better incentives of waste minimization through reuse and recycling of materials and energy.

New national procurement legislation was enacted in Sweden from the beginning of 2017 making it possible to use environmental criteria considering a life cycle perspective. The Swedish Government has the need of a holistic approach by addressing these topics in its “National Procurement Strategy”. It specifically emphasizes that the lack of a holistic approach could result in ineffective environmental measures, costs and other activities which might not be considered otherwise. It could also lead to sub-optimization of resources not knowing where the most important environmental impacts occur in a product´s life cycle. It is therefore of vital importance to fully consider a life cycle perspective in public procurement as well as the concept for circular economy in future procurement activities. In many cases, such activities need information from life cycle assessments (LCA).

There are several good opportunities to include LCA-information in GPP. ISO-standards are now available specifically adapted to public procurement focusing on environmental declarations, EPD, which has proven to be successful in the building/construction and food sector. Quite a number of open-accessible LCA-databases have also been established to promote the use of LCA-information for a variety of market applications. Circular procurement is quite a new concept in the procurement process. There are some few examples of successful procurements leading to increased use of reuse and recycling of materials and energy. Hence, there is lack of a common and generally-accepted procurement procedure stimulating circular material flows. However, there are a lot of ongoing research activities on this subject.

Environmental problems are today global and pollutant emissions transboundary. Hence, Sweden cannot cope with its environmental challenges on its own. Recently, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency announced that we do not reach most of our national environmental goals – not even our “generation goal” – the predominant goal for future environmental work in Sweden. This is due to an increase of emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in other countries (which is twice as much as the territorial emissions) and has shown an increase since many years as a consequence of the consumption pattern in Sweden. Adding to this, it was stated that Sweden has a responsible for our pollutant emissions where ever they occur. Public procurement is considered to be an effective political tool in the environmental domain and has the possibility to put direct demands on the environmental performance of products from foreign suppliers. In fact, GPP might be the only practical tool we have in the public sector with the capacity to influence foreign suppliers to reduce their GHG emissions.

The preparatory work to the Swedish governments climate-political framework to 2030 includes suggestions for measures in different sectors of society to reduce their GHG emission with up to 60 – 70 % as a contribution to our overall national commitments to international agreements to reduce GHG emissions. Here, the importance of GPP was mentioned as one of these activities. However, no information was given on how or to what extent GPP actions would have to be taken to accomplish necessary reductions of GHG emissions. The consumption-related GHG emissions have to be reduced to quite some extent within 10 years until 2030. If Sweden should be able to meet the challenge to become the world´s first climate-neutral welfare country the emissions must be reduced at a much higher pace than today – our consumption-related GHG emissions must be one-tenth of the current levels.

The Swedish governments climate-political framework also highlights the need to consider a life cycle perspective in the different phases of public procurement and to be effective in this sense there is a need of easy-accessible LCA data to collect and follow-up. It is also emphasized through recent activities in EU and UNEP there is now good opportunities to put demand on LCA-information in environmental declarations (EPD) in public procurement. The National Strategy for Procurement it is further stressed that, when forwarding demands on foreign suppliers in public procurement, these have to be based on international standards. It seems that from a political level there are now officially stated expectations on GPP as instrumental in these achievements and even clear messages how to move forward making use of LCA and EPD. Such methods and tools are now available through a number of ISO standards specifically adapted to public procurement.

It is important to prepare for taking aboard these new challenges to mitigate climate change and create circular material flows for all actors on the market providing procurement support. In practice, procurement organizations may have to consider and include a life cycle perspective into their tender documents by including requests for LCA-information and environmental declarations, EPD – a quantitative descriptions of the environmental performance of products over its entire life cycle – which has proven to be supportive as an effective tool in GPP initially in the building and food sector. Currently this development is taking place as voluntary market-based initiatives. Hopefully these initiatives will pave the way for more effective procurement criteria in the public sector.

The report also tries to elaborate on what needs to be considered as complementary to environmental criteria to be more successful with regard to environmental efficiency. Based on the inclusion of LCA-data and environmental criteria being more strict than existing legislation, economic motives for suppliers “to do more” than requested was found to be key. Therefore, this report recommends a three-staged approach including both LCA-information, driving criteria as well as different forms of economic incentives for environmental criteria to become more effective. Procurement work has to be much more flexible and avoid too strict technical requirements on products which otherwise hampers new and better environmental solutions. It is important to introduce a procedure stimulating those suppliers that can provide more environmentally-adapted offers to also win contracts – a sort of “regular innovation work”.

This report makes an attempt to cover information on progress with regard to GPP from when it all started 25 years ago, legislation on the subject, governmental support as well as experiences from procurement authorities in their daily work. It also describes the principles for a life cycle perspective and circularity with regard to GPP and recent trends on the subject both on a national and international level. It also gives a historic review of the development of GPP in Sweden.

Coworkers: Sven-Olof Ryding

Year: 2019.0

Report number: B2340

Authors: Sven-Olof Ryding